Photos and Article courtesy of Style.com Â
America Ferrera’s first real showbiz experience was something of a letdown. At 16, after a decade of acting in school plays and drifting off each night to Hollywood dreams, she was cast in a Disney Channel movie about a junior high school dance team with the somewhat hilarious name of Gotta Kick It Up
. At first, she was thrilled. “I love to dance, so I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to just dance all day. And there were four other girls in the cast, so that was fun. And you know the way you think when you’re a teenager: Disney Channel today, Oscars tomorrow!” she says with a laugh. But a few weeks into filming, she had what she describes as “a mini nervous breakdown.” “I just felt really empty,” she says. “I had achieved my dream, and it wasn’t totally fulfilling. I still had school problems, and I still had boy problems. My life was still my life. I guess I had been waiting to be turned into a swan.”
Seven years later, chatting over a dinner of fish cakes, fried rice and chicken curry at a Thai restaurant in New York’s SoHo, Ferrera is no longer waiting for her swan moment. That sort of magical transformation doesn’t happen in real life, she’s realizedâ€”not even in Hollywood. But about a year ago something far better occurred: She was cast as an ugly duckling, and that lovable four-eyed, brace-faced duckling has made Ferrera into a big, big star.
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“Hot Betty,” photographed by Michael Thompson, has been edited for Style.com; the complete story appears in the May 2007 issue of W.